Basic hand stitches and decorative stitching “how-to”s.

Back Stitch – Use a short needle. It is the strongest hand stitch and is used to imitate machine stitches. Work backstitch from right to left.

1. Begin with a knotted length of thread (1), and then take a stitch and a space (2).

2. Take the needle back over the space and bring it out the same distance in front of the thread(3).

3. Continue to the end of the seam.

4. Fasten off with a couple of stitches on the spot.

Basting Stitch – A temporary method of holding two or more layers of fabric together, by sewing by hand or machine with long stitches, while it is being permanently stitched. Similar to running stitch but with longer stitches. Also known as tacking.

1. Work with single or double thread, knotted at the end (1), and make evenly spaced stitches by taking the needle in (3) and out (2) of the fabric .

2. End a line of tacking with 1 backstitch or a knot.

3. To release the tacking stitches, cut off the knot and pull out the thread.

Catch Stitch – see herringbone stitch.

Herringbone Stitch – This hand stitch keeps layers of fabric flat against one another, such as a facing or seam allowances. Use it on lined projects because the lining covers and protects the surface threads, which tend to catch on things. You can vary the stitch length as desired. I recommend making stitches 3/8 to 1/2- inch apart. Also known as a catch stitch.

  1. Thread your needle; insert your needle to the wrong side of your top layer (1).
  2. Working from left to right while pointing your needle to the left, place a small stitch in the foundation fabric in a diagonal direction about 1/4 inch to the right near the edge (3).
  3. Place the next stitch 1/4 inch to the right on the top layer and make your stitches form the letter “X”. (5)
  4. Continue repeating this zig-zag pattern, alternating from foundation to top layer, keeping an even space between stitches and keeping the stitches loose.

Ladder Stitch – This stitch is used to join two fabric-covered edges invisibly. When the thread is tightened, the stitches should be virtually invisible and the turnings enclosed to the inside.  It’s much easier to work this stitch with a fine curved needle and butt both folded edges together.

1. Work from face side of fabric with a single thread fastened with a knot hidden inside the fold. (1)

2. Bring the needle out through the folded edge (2), straddle the seam and insert needle directly opposite your last position(3).

3. Slide the needle along, (4) come out of the fold to make  the next stitch on the opposite side (5).

4. Repeat “rung” stitch pattern 3 or 4 times, then draw up on thread tension to roll up and close the seam. Keep stitches small and even.

Running Stitch – use a long, slim needle. Use for seaming, gathering,  tucking,  mending, quilting and many kinds of delicate work.

1. Fasten the thread with a few backstitches (1) and work small stitches by passing the needle in (3) and out (2) of the fabric. Weave point of needle in  (5) and out (4) of fabric several times before pulling thread through. Keep the stitches and spaces as even as possible.

Slip Stitch – for invisibility rather than strength. This stitch is used for holding a turned edge, such as a facing or a fold, to a flat piece of fabric.

1. Work from right to left with a single thread fastened with a knot hidden inside the fold (1).

2. Bring the needle out through the folded edge (2), pick up a few threads of the flat fabric (3) and then return to exit point on folded edge; work through the fold again.

3. Slide the needle along, come out of the fold to make repeat the next stitch. Keep stitches small and even.

Saddle Stitch – The saddle stitch is a very strong stitch because if a part of the thread were to fray due to wear and tear, the rest of the thread will never unravel and become undone. It is a spaced running stitch in contrasting or heavy thread, used mainly for decoration, usually along an edge.

Stitching with 2 needles:

1. Take one very long piece of the waxed heavy-duty thread off of the spool and cut it. Next, thread each end of the thread through each of the needles. You should have a needle on each end of one piece of thread. The waxed thread will have sort of a tacky feel to it, so instead of tying a traditional knot, thread the needle and bring the end back alongside the rest of the thread. With the end folded back along the rest of the thread, twist them together between your thumb and forefinger. The waxy texture will temporarily adhere itself together until you are finished with your project. Do this to both ends.

2. On your leather, you should have holes pre-marked where your seam will be so you can sew with ease. If your holes have not punched the whole way through, simply push through the designated needle hole with an awl so you don’t have to risk breaking or bending your needles if you were to try to force it through the material. Take your thread and thread one needle through the hole. Pull the thread through the hole until there is an equal length of thread on each side of the seam.

3. Take either of the needles and thread it through the next hole on the same side of the seam. On the other side of the seam, take the other needle and thread it back through the same hole that the first needle came through. The needles should have “switched” sides at this point, and you have just completed the first saddle stitch. Repeat this process until your project is complete.

Under Stitch – The stitching, used on enclosed seams, that attaches the seam to the facing and prevents the seam from rolling to the front side.

1. Thread your needle, using the thread and fasten with a knot on the end (1); fasten the thread on the underside of the fabric and push the needle through (2). Start from face side of your fabric and work parallel along the seam.

2. Take a stitch and a space (3-4), as you would for a back stitch.

3. Insert the needle back through the fabric, a thread or two behind the area where it first came through (5). Work from left to right with your thread and needle.

4. Push the needle through again about ¼-inch ahead of the first stitch (6). Keep working from right to left. Continue along the length of the fabric while keeping the stitches even.

5. When you reach the end of your fabric, fasten a knot with the needle and thread. If you are sewing the understitch correctly, you will see a neat row of stitches that look like an even line of dots along your seamline.

Whip Stitch –  is a way to neaten the raw edge of bulky fabrics or to prevent lightweight fabrics from fraying. Relate the length of the stitch to the fabric and how badly it will fray. Also known as overcasting.

1. Begin with a few backstitches (1).

2. Make diagonal stitches over the raw edge, spacing them equally and make them all the same length (2-3). Be careful not to pull the stitches too tight.